Bring prices down in 2014 say Bordeaux buyers: open letter

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles 

25 January 2015

Last month, I purchased a bottle of 1966 Chateau Montrose, a top second growth from Bordeaux’s Saint Estephe appellation, which apparently did well in that vintage. The price for the bottle, which I purchased at an auction with apparently very good provenance, was less than $190. I love mature Bordeaux, as the wines are ready to drink and a product of long term aging that can work magic for #winelover-s.

As Bordeaux’s top estates tour the world to have their latest in-bottle vintage – 2012 – tasted by merchants, these same merchants are preparing for the en primeur campaign of 2014, when the latest vintage from barrel is tasted in early April.

The fact that I need to spend more money for Chateau Montrose 2009 and 2010 than for Montrose 1966 indicates that something has gone a bit amiss with pricing in recent years.

The bar set in Bordeaux for initial offers has been set too often too high, resulting in less interest in en primeur campaigns, and many alienated end consumers.

To illustrate the point, I have scanned a January “open letter” to Bordeaux signed by top UK Bordeaux merchants – from Farr Vintners and Bordeaux Index to Berry Bros & Rudd and Majestic Wines – urging a “much needed correction” in the market for Bordeaux.

Open letter

“Much needed correction” in Bordeaux pricing urged, according to top UK wine merchants


An evening of Château Pichon Longueville Baron: 1989-2010

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

21 January 2015

This was my sixth consecutive annual Bordeaux gala dinner in Washington D.C. The wines of Pichon Baron have been particularly excellent in recent memory since the 2000 vintage. Jean-Rene Matignon – who flew to Washington for this tasting dinner – has been at the helm since 1987 as technical director, when AXA Insurance bought the property. Their investments in the vineyard and the vat room have borne fruit especially in vintages since 2000. And yet, 1989 and 1990 were both marvelous, made from higher yields. No false notes from any of the 13 vintages enjoyed by assembled merchants, sommeliers, wine bloggers and wine lovers who attended this tasting dinner on a cold January Martin Luther King Day in the nation’s capital. And a word of praise to the relatively weak 2007 vintage, which was charming and very aromatically pleasing for current enjoyment, even though it, too, has Pauillac power, as it should, with tannic structure.

Although I sought to do a double vertical with both Pichon Baron and Pichon Comtesse, it was great to see Jean-Rene again, as I had organised verticals with him in three German cities back in 2006, where we had tried several of the same vintages as here in Washington D.C. including 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Five years ago in New York City, I had co-organized a double vertical of both estates; private individuals and wine lovers brought their own bottles and we compared the wines blind over several vintages and then-Pichon Comtesse wine director Thomas Do Chi Nam, who later joined the team at Chateau Margaux, took part. 

Pichon Baron the chateau under clouds

As most readers of these pages would know, both Château Pichons were once a single, larger estate, owned by Pierre de Rauzan. In 1850 the estate was divided into the two current châteaux, facing each other as one enters Pauillac along the D2 highway. In 1987 the French insurance company AXA purchased the estate and appointed Jean-Michel Cazes of Château Lynch-Bages as administrator, but the estate has been run since 2000 by Christian Seely, whom I last saw in Florence for the 8th annual Master of Wine Symposium in May 2014. In any case, much of the team’s continuity over the last 30 years guarantees that the unique character of this wine is maintained.

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2012: Bouchard kicks ass. Older vintages, too.

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles

17 January 2015

Bouchard Père & Fils is the largest estate in Burgundy’s famous Côte d’Or. At least since 2003, I have been a regular taster of wines made by Bouchard and appreciate winemaking director Philippe Prost’s aim towards elegance and finesse as an overall style. Indeed, even in hot vintages like 2003 the wines can convey much poise and verve.


With Bouchard winemaking director Philippe Prost, French wine critic Bernard Burtschy and wine buyer Santa Zamuele

At a November 2014 dinner tasting at the gorgeous Chateau de Beaune headquarters – a formal royal fortress built in the 15th century – guests appreciated an exceptionally bright yet concentrated and thoroughly youthful Chevalier Montrachet La Cabotte. An example of a white wine from that torrid vintage that is doing very well. Read More

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The empire strikes back: Latour 59 and 62 and why I love Bordeaux

11 January 2015

By Panos Kakaviatos for

Most of 2014 I spent visiting wine regions outside of Bordeaux, from Southern Styria to Nemea, Greece. Like many #wine lovers, I got tired of the escalating prices of top Bordeaux wines. And as much as I love Burgundy, there too, some domains have been jacking their prices up to high heaven. There are mitigating circumstances it is said, from bad weather to increasing demand. In some cases, these are valid explanations. And winelovers should seek out alternatives, from New to Old World, where terroir driven wines are not yet discovered.

Oldies but (really, really) goodies

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“Euro-Maidan” one year on: wine reflections from Kyiv

25 November 2014

By Panos Kakaviatos for

Last Friday marked the one year anniversary of the “Euro-Maidan” uprising that led to the ouster of Russia-backed former president Viktor Yanukovych – and later to Russia’s Crimea annexation and continued conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Underscoring the power of social media, the Associated Press reports that Ukraine’s revolution began with a status update on Facebook: “Angered by another high-handed move by an increasingly unpopular government, activist reporter Mustafa Nayyem called for a rally on the country’s most famous square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti — Independence Square.”

The rest, as is said, is history.


MIlitary vehicles in Kyiv


When I visited Kyiv this past August, I did not go on behalf of my employer the Council of Europe but for a commission from Meiningers Wine Business International to write about Ukraine’s wine market, following adoption of the EU Association Agreement.

Although a country still in conflict, the long term effects of this agreement should be both interesting and complex, as you can read in my article, Wine as a weapon of war, which was only possible because of the wonderful people I met in Kyiv and the warm welcome that they gave to me.

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